God with us...
The Hebrew people of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament had it tough. What had started as an abundant and privileged life in Egypt had gone horribly wrong. More than 400 years earlier, Joseph had been second-in-command in Egypt and had welcomed his family there, saving their lives during a severe famine. Although Joseph always knew they would someday return to the promised land (Genesis 50:24), he could never have imagined what future generations would have to endure before that happened. This is a glimpse:
“Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens ... But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves.” Exodus 1:11-13 ESV
However, during that 400 years, a family unit (the relatives and sons of Jacob) turned into a powerful people group. The book of Exodus goes into great detail about how the Hebrew people were miraculously brought out of slavery, and how a journey of more than 263 miles (the distance from Egypt to Israel) took 40 years. But God did something in those 40 years of wandering. He took a group of downtrodden, mistreated people and gave them laws, land, and most of all, his presence.
Exodus is, therefore, a story about how God is faithful to fulfill his covenants. He had not forgotten the promise he made to Abraham centuries before, but delighted in going to extraordinary lengths to expand Abraham’s offspring and to give them a future and a hope. Their story gives us courage because we are privileged to know the same God who always fulfills his promises.
But even more astounding than that is the fact that God promised his presence:
“I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” Exodus 29:44-46 ESV
Notice that twice in the above passage, God repeats, “I am the Lord their God.” This is the main message he wants to get across to his people—both then and now. But what does that mean?
Exodus 25-31 is a long description of what needs to go into the sanctuary: God’s dwelling place. The Lord God is doing something new. Never before has God called a people his own, and never before has he dwelt among a people. The magnitude of what he is doing for Israel is enormous. The privilege of their position is astounding.
How much more is our privilege? God has not chosen a physical dwelling place for us, but because of Christ, he has invited us into his family. Colossians 1:3-5 (NLT) says,
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Reading that, who wouldn’t want the Lord to be their God? It's so easy to turn this passage into a prayer:
I praise you, God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because I am united with Christ. Even before you made the world, you loved me and chose me in Christ to be holy and without fault in your eyes. You decided in advance to adopt me into your own family by bringing me to yourself through Jesus Christ. This is what you wanted to do, and it gave you great pleasure. Thank you! Amen.